Let’s get busy!

County Agent’s Corner

Master Gardener volunteers and TLC Nursing Center clients planting raised beds last April.

Master Gardener volunteers and TLC Nursing Center clients planting raised beds last April.

Vegetable gardening has always been a good release for me. Even back in my younger days, while working as a horticultural technician at Sand Mountain Experiment Station, after working with vegetable and other crops all day, I would come home and take my frustrations out on the weeds in the garden. And some days, I really let them have it. I would like to be able to say that since that time I have calmed down a bit, but that is not necessarily true.

Two things have changed: the things causing my misery and the size of my garden. I only have one raised bed and a small garden with six tomato plants and two peppers. I have to take my weedeater out now and use it to relieve the stress, the hoe no longer will suffice. Poor weeds! Let’s hope I don’t have to buy a tractor and bush hog!

There are a lot of reasons folks garden. Some enjoy the end results of having fresh vegetables to share with family and friends, while others like the challenge of growing food. Some folks, like me, like the therapeutic aspect of gardening, while others enjoy having fresh produce to sell or cook.

As a matter of fact, many Blount County Master Gardeners have been involved with the Harvest for Health program. This is a gardening program that assigns a Master Gardener to advise and mentor a cancer survivor that has little gardening experience. UAB, in partnership with Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is directing the research associated with the program. UAB takes various samples and measurements regarding the patient early in the program, and again in a year or so to see what the impact of gardening has had. To learn more about the Harvest for Health program go to the Blount County Alabama Extension Facebook and click on the link in the recent post. Whatever the reason, home gardening is the number one hobby in the U.S.

With this in mind, I met with Ina Brown, activity director at TLC Nursing Center. She indicated that it would be nice to have raised beds to engage the clients in physical activity. After all, beds must be planted, watered, weeded, and otherwise maintained, which does take an extended effort. Many of the residents staying there had been involved in gardening at one time or another so it seemed like a good fit. Harvesting tomatoes to make a sandwich or fry green; well, who wouldn’t like that?

The Blount County Master Gardener Association agreed to help sponsor the program by purchasing materials to make the beds. Cawaco, in partnership with the Scotts Co., enabled us to obtain soil for the project. Additional soil was donated by Triple J Nursery in Hayden. Master Gardener Billie Hallman also donated two beds that were constructed by her late husband Wess Hallman. The four beds made a large enough planting area that it was decided that some of the beds would be utilized for vegetables and the others for flowers. It always makes for a nice day when you have fresh flowers on the table.

Master Gardener volunteers met with Brown and some of the clients at the center in mid-April to plant a mixture of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. They also planted petunias, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds to add color to the beds and so clients could pick a few to take to their room occasionally.

I recently spoke with Brown and she indicated the beds were a huge hit with most of the clients at TLC. I’m not sure, but I think maybe they liked the tomatoes best. Like I said, it’s hard to beat a tomato sandwich.

Fall is here and it is now time to renovate the beds and get some cool season crops in. I’m thinking maybe some turnip greens, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli would be a good choice. I’ll be checking with Brown to see what is preferred by the clients. After all, here in Alabama, gardening can be a year round activity that we all can enjoy.

A free, six-week course called Living Well Alabama will be offered by M4A. The programs will be held on Wednesdays, Sept. 4 through Oct. 9, at the Frank Green Building auditorium, 415 5th Avenue East, Oneonta. The classes will each be about two and a half hours on various topics and begin each day at 1 p.m. Transportation and respite assistance is available. Call M4A at 205-670-5770 to register or go to www.LivingWellAlabama.org.

Dan Porch is County Extension Coordinator with the Blount County Extension Office. Dan lives in and loves Blount County and is available to answer your questions about conservation, agriculture, natural resources, and gardening. He can be reached at (205) 274-2129 or porchdw@aces.edu.